MOOCs: Opening Education to the Masses

Post University cartoon by Dave Blazek is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at

This week in BCM310 we looked at ‘Universities in the Digital Age’ and how higher education has become the next target for technological disruption.

The issue is that the Internet and digital technologies allow for open communication and the quick, free distribution of content around the world. As Miller (2009) notes, this has caused the ‘wreckage of institutions once thought invincible’, including the newspaper industry and the music industry.  It is suggested that the most recent victim of this rampage has been the education system.

A driving force behind this paradigm shift in our understanding of teaching and learning is MOOCs, or Massive Online Open Courses. An example of a MOOC provider is ‘Coursera’, who provides tuition-free course(s) taught over the Web to a large number of students” (Vardi 2012). These providers partner with leading universities to provide courses to students at no cost. The rising popularity of MOOCs raises a number of issues and questions which are currently being contentiously debated by the media, universities, academics, students and by the public.

One reason why the legitimacy of MOOCs is contested is because many academics do not believe that an online course is an effective replacement for a traditional classroom experience due to the limitations that exist when teaching and learning is occurring via an online medium. Online course providers believe that their courses allow for a collaborative learning experience and make education convenient and accessible (Freeman 2013). However, educators are much more sceptical of the phenomenon because of the large number of students taking each course and the inability of individual one-on-one tuition to occur (Funnell 2013).

Dr Ian Bogost, professor at Georgia Institute of Technology, suggests that MOOCs are simply a marketing tool for private education providers, ultimately concluding that MOOCs are a “technology trend rather than an education trend” (Funnell 2013). I agree with Dr. Bogost; it seems as if MOOCs are another way that companies are trying to exploit industries for financial gain.

The most recent debate lies in whether MOOCs should be accredited. Lederman (2013) reports that five Coursera courses have received accreditation. This means that completion of the course contributes credit points towards university degree completion.

Where do you stand? Should MOOCs be accredited?  Will the proliferation of these free courses destroy traditional educational systems?

Thanks for reading!





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